The garment sector has become characterised by extreme supply chain fragmentation, fierce price competition, with a focus on high volume-low prices on low-end products and unskilled (fungible) labour, leaving most labour rights violations routinely ignored. 

Some of these issues include: low wages, precarious employment conditions, incidences of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, health and safety breaches, the inability to form unions collectively bargain for better conditions and, in some cases, the presence of forced and child labour. All of this means that millions of people across the world are working in jobs where their safety is compromised on a daily basis and where their human rights are not upheld.  

However, while the sector has been defined by an over reliance on audits and outsourcing assessments in an effort to push responsibility down the chain, it now finds itself at a turning point.  

Human rights due diligence (HRDD) is replacing the old way of doing things. Being a framework for protecting workers and communities from harm and holding businesses to account, HRDD has the potential to redress the industry’s power imbalances. It can help bring about more equitable sourcing dialogue between brands and their suppliers, in turn, providing new opportunities to strengthen the position of workers. 

For the past two and a half decades, we have connected and convened brands, factories, workers, trade unions, NGOs and other industry influencers, and built strong multistakeholder networks across the whole value chain. Being able to utilise each of their unique leverage, we are rightly positioned to embrace this shift, and demonstrate how impactful HRDD implementation can positively change the lives of the people who make our clothes.  

International Standards 

For 25 years, we have advocated for shared supply chain responsibility. During these two and a half decades, several normative principles, including the UNGPs and ILO standards, have bolstered our convictions  

To align with the OECD due diligence guidelines and guidance, our work with brands now embodies a ‘risk-based approach’. This has involved redesigning our monitoring requirements and specifying our expectations for brands regarding HRDD.   

Code of labour practices  

Since Fair Wear’s inception, we have based our collaboration with brands on the Code of Labour Practices (CoLP), eight labour standards derived from ILO Conventions and the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights. These standards, which you can learn about below, still form the core of our work; however, in recent years, we’ve expanded the interpretation of the responsibility of brands in relation to human rights to be in line with the UNGPs.